A good man at Goodman

This article first appeared in Contractor magazine’s December issue.

He drove a motor scraper at age 15 and now drives a multimillion-dollar business. RICHARD SILCOCK profiles Stan Goodman, MD of Goodman Contractors.

SECOND GENERATION family owned and run business Goodman Contractors is in good hands. Located in Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast north of Wellington, the earthmoving business has a turnover of around $45 million, employs some 210 staff and has machinery and plant assets in excess of $30 million.

Driver of the business is 48-year-old Stan Goodman, who took over as managing director from his father, Rick Goodman three years ago.

”It all started when I was a young boy playing at home in a sandpit with a toy bulldozer and trucks building make-believe roads,” he says.

“Dad and his brother Tony ran Goodman Earthmovers here in Waikanae in the ’60s and ’70s so I grew up around machinery and the earthmoving business. As children [he has two brothers and a sister, who along with Rick are all current directors of Goodman Contractors] we would often follow dad to wherever he was working and I remember at Mangaweka when he was doing an earthmoving job for NZ Railways (now KiwiRail) he let me have a go driving (under supervision) one of the scrapers. From then on I was hooked.”

As a typical teenager he was into motorbikes, tinkering with machinery and by 17 was driving heavy machinery and working in the business during the weekends. Not wanting to attend university he left school with an aptitude for maths and got a job with surveyors, Truebridge Callander Beach as a cadet.

In the late ’80s, he, along with his brothers joined up with his father to form Rick Goodman and Sons and won a number of big subcontracting projects.

“Business really picked up and we won a $3.5 million earthworks and drainage project for Transit (now NZTA) realigning a section of highway near Wanganui,” says Stan. “We also got work subcontracting to Higgins for various wind farms developments, including Te Apiti near Palmerston North and Westwind near Wellington where we put in access roads and levelled ground for the foundations.

“This was followed by the realignment of SH2 at Kaitoke north of Wellington and SH1 from Rata to Hunterville, the removal of large slip debris in the Manawatu Gorge and on the precipitous Parapara Road north of Wanganui, along with work near Patea and Atiamuri for HEBs.

“In those early days you had to lead by example, live like a gypsy, take the odd risk, and be prepared to share a joke and have a few beers with the boys. We worked like trojans through all weathers, just as dad did when he set up the original business.

“We learnt to multitask with one machine as we had little auxiliary equipment and it is only over the last 10-15 years that we have expanded and increased our plant substantially. We did this by buying good quality second-hand equipment from companies in Australia that found their plant to be surplus to requirements following the downturn in the economy.”

With a name change to Goodman Contractors in 2006, most of their work is now for the NZ Transport Agency and KiwiRail, either directly or indirectly as subcontractors. They have also been successful in procuring work from a number of local and regional councils.

“Currently the Kapiti Expressway is our biggest project,” says Stan. “We were fortunate to be part of the successful alliance (Fletchers, Higgins and Beca) that won the tender for the project. We’ve had to carefully plan the logistics and our methodology for working with the ground conditions which range from peat swamps, sand and clays.

“This work has included not only the earthworks, but also the clearing of greenfield areas, the diversion of several streams and a section of the Waikanae River, formation of bridge abutments, landscaping, drainage and the construction of swales and wetlands,” he says. “It is a massive job for us and will be worth around $69 million by the time we finish.”

Stan says these days he spends most of his time in the office managing projects, chasing new work, estimating and tendering, talking with clients and consultants and providing advice acquired over some 30 years in the industry.

In a bid to cut down on travel time getting to projects around the lower North Island he trained to be a helicopter pilot but did not go on to get his licence. He did have a part share in a small helicopter business but sold out when the global financial crisis hit.

“It taught me to be meticulous with safety checks, something I have brought into this business, along with keeping accurate log books and not taking unnecessary risks.”

Looking to the future, Stan says they will continue to expand the business through acquiring new clients, building relationships, giving people a chance to advance within the company, being ethical and honest, putting administrative systems and health and safety practices in place, utilising technology, continuing to do their own in-house maintenance where possible and sticking to their knitting.

“We may need to look further afield for new work going forward and perhaps set up satellite bases closer to the work sites,” says Stan.

“In the meantime it’s about maintaining our reputation, doing a job well and being a good employer,” he says. “I like to think, and it’s a play on our name, that we are all ‘good-men’ doing a good job, who all enjoy their work and go home smiling.

“It’s also about sustainability and working smarter,” he says. “We have established ourselves as a reliable earthmoving company and are being sought after as the earthmoving company of choice in the lower North Island.”

Stan says he is a man’s man, who gets on well with positive, like-minded people.

“I am a straight shooter,” he says. “I call a spade a spade and don’t take kindly to bureaucratic waffle. Having a positive and optimistic outlook is really important in this game, as is building and having a really good supportive team behind you.”

It is by doing a good job and having the support of his fellow directors and his wife Fiona (who runs the workshop office) and the staff that has he says, enabled the company to prosper and grow. “I couldn’t do it on my own without their support and I would probably have less hair than I have now if it wasn’t for them,” he quips.

A family man at heart, he is very proud of his four children and their achievements and is the first to acknowledge how important his wife and family are to him, for as he says, they’ve had to put up with the long hours he has to work and being away from home often.

“Fortunately we have some good guys working with us who have taken over some of the responsibility and allowed me more family time,” says Stan. “My eldest son and some of my nephews are now working in the business, so we have that third generation also coming through and learning the ropes.”

A keen 4WD enthusiast (he’s a member of the Tararua 4WD Club), he drives a modified FJ40 Toyota Landcruiser, goes mountain biking with his son (“he’s got more guts than me when it comes to those steep downhill bits”) and enjoys water skiing on Lake Taupo.

“I am very aware of where we have come from and all the hard work involved, and I still raise a smile when I am in a cab operating a scraper.”

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